Trait level analysis of multitrait population projection matrices

Abstract : In most matrix population projection models, individuals are characterized according to, usually, one or two traits such as age, stage, size or location. A broad theory of multitrait population projection matrices (MPPMs) incorporating larger number of traits was long held back by time and space computational complexity issues. As a consequence, no study has yet focused on the influence of the structure of traits describing a life-cycle on population dynamics and life-history evolution. We present here a novel vector-based MPPM building methodology that allows to computationally-efficiently model populations characterized by numerous traits with large distributions, and extend sensitivity analyses for these models. We then present a new method, the trait level analysis consisting in folding an MPPM on any of its traits to create a matrix with alternative trait structure (the number of traits and their characteristics) but similar asymptotic properties. Adding or removing one or several traits to/from the MPPM and analyzing the resulting changes in spectral properties, allows investigating the influence of the trait structure on the evolution of traits. We illustrate this by modeling a 3-trait (age, parity and fecundity) population designed to investigate the implications of parity-fertility trade-offs in a context of fecundity heterogeneity in humans. The trait level analysis, comparing models of the same population differing in trait structures, demonstrates that fertility selection gradients differ between cases with or without parity-fertility trade-offs. Moreover it shows that age-specific fertility has seemingly very different evolutionary significance depending on whether heterogeneity is accounted for. This is because trade-offs can vary strongly in strength and even direction depending on the trait structure used to model the population.
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Christophe f.D. Coste, Frédéric Austerlitz, Samuel Pavard. Trait level analysis of multitrait population projection matrices. Theoretical Population Biology, Elsevier, 2017, 116, pp.47-58. ⟨10.1016/j.tpb.2017.07.002⟩. ⟨mnhn-02282982⟩

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